Play to extinction

May 9, 2012 1:01 pm

Here is a great read by The National Review that cuts through the clutter and details what is really behind the growth in casinos across the country. Casinos are not about jobs or economic development. They are about raising easy money for state governments.

The upshot is a joint partnership between the casino industry and state governments to lure citizens to “Play to Extinction,” a term used by the industry to keep gamblers spending money until they are broke. The piece also captures the scene inside many casinos as poor and elderly gamblers arrive via buses and trains “on crutches and canes, lapping obesely over the seats of mobility scooters, adjusting oxygen tubes, discreetly nursing Big Gulp cups full of tequila and Pepsi through bendy straws at three in the afternoon.”

Deputy managing editor Kevin D. Williamson adds that the gamblers “come rolling and thundering down the tracks bearing our Social Security checks, our welfare checks, and quite possibly our rent checks. We are the blue-rinsed, unhinged, diabetic American id on walkers, and we are scratching off lottery tickets the whole way there as we converge from all points on the crime capital of New Jersey — because we are feeling lucky.”

Some hyperbole perhaps. But not much.

The piece does a fine job of making the case that casinos have done little to help struggling cities like Atlantic City or poor states like Mississippi. But the legalization of gambling has certainly made a lot of casino owners wealthy. And the casinos have generated revenue for state coffers. But that has not translated into better government services or lower taxes. As The National Review concludes: “Call gambling a vice, call it an addiction, call it a harmless diversion, call it anything you fancy — but don’t call it economic development.”

Casinos: elderly day care

May 8, 2012 11:06 am

Casino operators like to talk up the fun and entertainment they provide, while downplaying the dirty secret of what is going on inside many casinos across the country. But columnist Phil Reisman puts a human face on elderly problems gamblers who are fueling the growth of casinos across the country.

Reisman’s compelling column details the financial ruin of an 84-year-old widow who became hooked on playing slots and then taken advantage of by others. Helen’s story is just one of many that play out without much attention. But the reality is Helen is part of bread and butter slots players that generate a large chunk of a casino’s profits.

Atlantic City is well known for busing in elderly gamblers to play slots. But as more and more convenience casinos pop up across the county, gambling has become easily accessible to many other graying gamblers. Studies show elderly women especially are vulnerable to problem gambling. (One senior citizen warned against getting hooked on slots, while this piece says casinos have become day care

A University of Pennsylvania study found 1 in 10 people over the age of 65 are at risk of financial problems from gambling. The study was completed in 2005, before the recent surge in new casinos that have opened which will likely exacerbate the problem. Ohio is gearing up for an increase in elderly problem gamblers as casinos open up there.

The same problems will play out in other states like Massachusetts, where casinos are are expected to open soon. New York, Florida and other states should examine this growing problem before moving forward with plans to add more casinos. If not, lawmakers will be responsible for creating many more problem gamblers like Helen.